Month of Fasting

Month of Fasting

I go to the local park every morning for a walk and pranayama. Last month was Ramazan and I noticed a large number of Muslim adults and children in the park. They come because they wake up early to finish breakfast before sun up. I struck friendship with many children. Everyday, on seeing me they all came to greet me and shake my hand. This pleasant experience inspired this story.

Ramazan in the Muslim lunar calendar is the month of fasting. Men, women and children aged ten or above are supposed to fast for all of the 28 days of the lunar cycle. They take a light meal of bread, cooked vegetables, lentils and tea or coffee before sun up. After that, for the whole day, there is no eating of anything. There is no drinking either so people drink lots of water in the morning. The fast is broken usually with a regular supper after sun down. If they are away from home, people break the fast with dried dates or light Tiffin. On returning home they eat the regular meal. In the end of Ramazan comes the big day of celebration, Id-ul-fitr, when the best of foods are cooked and eaten.

People who do hard physical labor are not required to fast but many do. Also if one is traveling or sick one may excuse oneself.

The older people I have talked to—mostly shopkeepers aged 40 to 60--say that with light stomach they feel very good the whole day. They are quite used to this and know what to expect. They do what is healthy and avoid what is not. All of them said they feel more energetic than in the rest of the year. Some say that their minor health problems get resolved. 

There are many more benefits of the Ramazan discipline. 

1. People become more regular in offering namaz (prayer) five times a day. The larger number visiting mosques easily confirm this.
2. People try to be sweet and kind and think more positively than usual.
3. More charity is given in this month than at any other time. 
4. By fasting one becomes more conscious of the suffering of the hungry. So people give 2 kilograms of grain each to one or more poor families. Some do this on all days of the month. The rule is that one gives the same quality of grain as one buys for ones own family.

Young children are not forced to fast but they are encouraged if they show interest. Often they start at age ten. The first fast of a child is an occasions to celebrate. Parents or older relatives bring new clothes and sweets.

I am very much interested in therapeutic fasting, so I have considered experiencing Ramazan discipline. Many Muslims feel that their health improves by fasting but only if they eat sensibly. Unfortunately many people eat heavy evening meals and thereby cause themselves harm.

Partap, 18 Oct 2008